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Introduction to How the iPhone Works

In January 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the Apple iPhone during his keynote address at the Macworld Conference and Expo. In its first appearance onscreen and in Jobs's hand, the phone looked like a sleek but inanimate black rectangle.

Then, Jobs touched the screen. Suddenly, the featureless rectangle became an interactive surface. Jobs placed a fingertip on an on-screen arrow and slid it from left to right. When his finger moved, the arrow moved with it, unlocking the phone. To some people, this interaction between a human finger and an on-screen image -- and its effect on the iPhone's behavior -- was more amazing than all of its other features combined.
And those features are plentiful. In some ways, the iPhone is more like a palmtop computer than a cellular phone. As with many smartphones, you can use it to make and receive calls, watch movies, listen to mu­sic, browse the Web, and send and receive e-mail and text messages. You can also take pictures with a built-in camera, import photos from your computer and organize them all using the iPhone's software.

In 2008, Apple introduced the second generation iPhone. The new iPhone can operate on third-generation (3G) cellular networks and has a GPS receiver. The iPhone also lets you view map and satellite data from Google Maps, including overlays of nearby businesses. Owners of the original iPhone got the opportunity to upgrade the software on their phones. The 2.0 software gives the old phones new functions, but without the GPS receiver or 3G network capability.

­A modifie­d version of the Macintosh OS X operating system used on Apple desktop and laptop computers lets you interact with all of these applications. It displays icons for each application on the iPhone's screen. It also manages battery power and system security. The operating system synchs the phone with your computer, a process that requires a dock much like the one used to synch an iPod. It also lets you multitask and move through multiple open applications, just like you can on a laptop or desktop computer.

But instead of using a mouse or a physical keyboard, the iPhone uses virtual buttons and controls that appear on its screen. This isn't really a new phenomenon -- touch screens have been part of everything from self-checkout kiosks to smartphones for years. But the iPhone's touch-screen is a little different from many of the others currently on the market. When you touch the screen on a PDA or a Nintendo DS, you typically use a slender, pointed stylus. The iPhone, on the other hand, requires you to use your fingers. It can also detect multiple touch points simultaneously, which many existing touch-screens cannot do.
­This article will explore exactly how the iPhone's touch-screen carries instructions from your fingertips to the phone's internal circuitry. We'll also look at the iPhone's features, its hardware and how it compares to smartphones and other electronic devices.



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